Labor Sec. Thomas Perez among leaders to lend support to workers at events in two-dozen cities over next two weeks
WHAT: Home health care workers in North Carolina are joining a Nationwide Town Hall Blitz for the first time ever in support of $15 and a union
WHO: Co-sponsored by Raise Up, the NC Council of Churches, and the NC Justice Center
WHEN: Thursday, March 5th, 6:00pm
WHERE: Martin Street Baptist Church, 1001 E Martin Street, Raleigh, NC
RALEIGH (March 4, 2015) — Public officials, community leaders and clergy, including U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky and former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, will lend their support to the growing Home Care Fight for $15 at a series of town hall meetings to be held in two-dozen cities in every region of the country.
The meetings, expected to draw thousands of workers, come as a new report by the National Employment Law Project shows that if America’s 2 million home care workers were paid $15 an hour, it would put $16.5 billion in their pockets, add up to $6.6 billion to the U.S. economy and create as many as 50,000 jobs. Workers on average would see a nearly 50 percent raise, putting an additional $8,000 in each of their pockets, the report shows.
“I work hard to care for my client, but have to rely on public assistance to put food on the table for my own family,” said Barb Beckedahl, a home care worker from Columbia Falls, Mont., who is paid $10.00 per hour after more than 8 years on the job. “Fifteen dollars would be a game changer for me, my family and all of the nation’s home care workers and we are confident that with all the support we are picking up, we will win.”
Inspired by fast-food workers’ call for $15 and union rights, home care workers first joined the Fight for $15 in a handful of cities in September. Since then, the movement has spread to more than two dozen cities. Over the next two weeks, workers will hold town hall meetings in Atlanta, GA; Boston, Mass.; Chicago, Ill.; Cleveland, OH; Denver, Colo; Detroit, Mich.; Hartford, Conn.; Kansas City, MO; Las Vegas, NV; Memphis, Tenn.; Miami, Fla.; Milwaukee, Wisc.; Billings, Mont.; Portland, OR; Raleigh-Durham, NC; Richmond, VA; Sacramento, Calif.; Springfield, Mass.; St. Louis, MO; Tampa, Fla.; and Washington, DC. Unionized home care workers in Los Angeles, Calif. met earlier this month and called for $15 in their contract negotiations with Los Angeles County. Home care workers employed by private agencies, who are also part of the campaign, joined in. Additionally, home care workers from Washington held a roundtable with Governor Jay Inslee to discuss how $15 an hour could drastically change their lives.
Labor Secretary Thomas Perez is scheduled to speak at the town hall in Washington, D.C., while former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland will speak at the event in Cleveland. U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky is offering support to workers in Illinois and in Miami, U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson will stand beside workers as they call for $15 and hour and a union.
“Most of us are facing or will face the need to find quality home care for our loved ones or ourselves, and many of us will turn to a professional home care worker to help provide that care,” said Ms. Schakowsky. “I believe that no one who works full-time should live in poverty. If we value home care workers, we need to show it. If we want to have home care workers available, we need to raise their wages. It is just that simple.”
Across the country, 2 million home care workers provide daily support services like bathing, toileting, dressing and preparing meals for older Americans and people with disabilities. Despite doing the work that allows seniors and people with disabilities to live with dignity, the median wage in home care is just $9.57 per hour. For someone working full-time, that’s $383 a week before taxes, or $1,531 a month, barely enough to rent a one bedroom apartment in many parts of the country, let alone pay for utilities, food, gas and child care expenses. But even these figures are high, since they don’t account for the unpredictable and part-time hours that reduce home care wages even further. The result is median annual earnings of just $13,000 a year.
Home care plays a crucial role in the nation’s economic future. It is far from the only low-paying sector of the American economy, but its role is significant because it is one of the top employers of women and because it is projected to continue growing. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the country will need 1 million new home care workers by 2022.
“Scripture speaks consistently about the sin of withholding fair wages. Fast-growing, but low-paying home care jobs are keeping workers from entering the middle class, fueling inequality,” said Senior Pastor, Rev. Steve Jerbi, who is participating in the Milwaukee, Wisc. town hall. “Higher wages for home care workers would drive a more broadly shared recovery, bolstering the ranks of our middle class and creating jobs throughout the economy.”
The Fight For $15 started in New York City in November 2012, with 200 fast-food workers walking off their jobs demanding $15 and the right to form a union without retaliation. It has since spread to more than 190 cities in every region of the country. And it has spread beyond fast food, with home care, airport and retail workers, as well as adjunct professors, joining in.
“The movement for higher pay and better rights on the job is everywhere now,” said Shannon Milton, a home care worker from Raleigh, N.C. “Through these town halls, home care workers are saying, ‘We do crucial work, we are underpaid and it is time we are heard.’”
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